Winter Adventures

Winter adventures settled in over the New Year. A week’s worth of sub-freezing temperatures was followed by a whopping Nor’easter blizzard to swath us in white. That thing blew like a Midwestern snow storm. It mounded up snow drifts like I’ve never seen out here; they were the kinds of winds that I remember from Iowa – those that blew forcefully across the plains with very few structures to break their powerful gust. Then post-blizzard, more frigid temperatures.

I wish I could say that those winter adventures thus far have been the snow-filled fun of skiing and sledding followed by hot cocoa. That’s what my little Polly-Anna-self expects in the Normal Rockwell scheme of things. However, I’m a grown-up. Damn it.

On December 30th, when our plane landed at Logan after a seven-hour flight from England, the pilot welcomed us to the artic. It was only a couple degrees above zero. My lips turned just imagining that wait for the bus to take us to the parking lot where our van had been all week. We hadn’t taken heavy winter coats to England because they have milder winters. Will and I glanced at one another while we waiting for the bus. “This feels better than England,” he said.

Blustery wind and rain made for damp, cold outings in England. Our winter coats would’ve been welcome. However, there on the curb at the airport, we stood in the crisp, still air; it felt peaceful and considerably warmer than England. The arctic chill’s ferocity wasn’t coming at us.

As much as I like to travel, it’s always wonderful to open the door to our own house after being away. The warmth and quiet of the house quickly gave way to a barn smell. As Bill brought the bags into the house, I cut up citrus fruit and chucked the pieces down the garbage disposal. Better. Liam headed to his little nest: the computer hutch next to the Christmas tree. “It’s the tree! The tree stinks!” Yup, it was a little ripe. Having been in the house since December 1st, on the 30th the tree no longer pulled enough water through its trunk to keep it alive. Not willing to give up the lights of the holidays just yet, I cracked some windows. Three days later, the morning of the blizzard I pulled all the ornaments off and hauled the stink bomb to the curb, spilling ripe water all the way across the living room floor.

Shift back in time to the morning after we got home from England… I threw my foot to the floor next to my warm bed and felt cold wood. I pranced on my toes to my closet to grab warm clothes. Then I went to each bedroom and bathroom to touch the baseboards – where hot water should be coursing through to heat the rooms. Each baseboard was ice cold. Frozen pipes.

We didn’t panic as this has happened with the new addition every time it gets this cold for a couple days. Somewhere in these outer three walls of our new bedroom, the pipes sit too close to the outer wall or simply don’t have enough insulation on that side to protect the heating pipes. We set up space heaters and turned on the gas fireplace in our bedroom. We didn’t call the plumber; we knew the drill. The pipes are new and not copper, so they shouldn’t break. We placed the heaters where we guessed the pipes were frozen. It was a roaring 85 degrees in our bedroom and still no heat. For the record seven days in Boston with temperatures below freezing, we waited. And, we are still waiting.

Let me back up, Sunday morning I saw two four-foot long water spots on the living room ceiling, and water was dripping through a light fixture. I went into Lucy-getting-kissed-by-a-dog mode: “Move the furniture! Roll up the carpet! Roll up the padding! Cover the bookcases with cut up garbage bags!”

Bill turned the water off in the house, and we waited an hour for the plumber to arrive. Our plumbing company is owned by two brothers who are like CSI pros; they’re calm and think methodically through the situation. John was on call for the weekend. He was incredibly apologetic that he had to be there. I thought he would bring in a hatchet to break open the ceiling; that’s what I was ready for – let’s just get to the bottom of this. Instead, he thoughtfully said, “I think you have an ice dam causing this leak. I really don’t think it’s a broken pipe.”

I’ve run out of steam to tell this story. I just need my Normal Rockwell winter. Candles burning on the mantle. Red noses from sledding and skiing outside. Sitting by the fire drinking hot cocoa after a day outside. Warm stew shared with friends on a winter’s night. Seeing snowflakes swirling in the outdoor lights.

With Christmas decorations tucked away, I was well on my way to creating a more simply decorated living space for the rest of the winter. My idyllic winter visions are marred by these winter adventures. The couch is shoved against the island in the kitchen. The rug and foam pad are rolled up and in the middle of the dining room. There’s still no heat upstairs; during the week we aren’t home long enough to turn the water back on to the heating system to see if the leak originates from burst pipes. Today it’s supposed to get above freezing, so if it freezes again tonight and the ceiling leaks, we’ll lean toward an ice dam causing the yellow watermarks.

Yet through all of this, we are making wonderful memories for our children. From the couch in the kitchen, Liam looked in awe at the expanse of bare hardwood floor in the living room. “Mom, this is so cool! Can we leave it this way for a while?”

Knock yourself out, Liam. The date that the rug returns to the living room is not in the immediately foreseeable future.

Happy Wintry Hump Day!